‘If you want to buy a vintage watch, now is the time’

Has the watch bubble burst? If it hasn’t burst it is certainly a deflated and in a volatile state. But what about the pre-loved market? Vintage watches can be both the accessory and the investment piece you need.

A 1968 Rolex Reference 6241 Daytona Paul Newman ‘John Player Special’: these and rare Patek Philippes are still fetching six-figure sums. Picture: Getty

With a stainless steel Patek Philippe Nautilus, 5711 costing you in excess of €100,000 compared to its original retail price of around €30,000, and while you will still pay significantly over the list price for popular Rolex sports models such as the Daytona or GMT Master II, finding a bargain in the pre-owned watch world is still unlikely. That’s why it is time to look at perhaps the most stable area of the watch world – vintage watches.

What is a vintage watch and why should I buy one?

A vintage watch is generally defined as any watch over 25 years old. Vintage watches are more likely to be dress watches than a ‘sports watch’ on a steel bracelet and tend to be smaller and slimmer – with notable exceptions. A 1969 Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch, as worn by the US astronauts, is 42mm in size and qualifies as vintage as well as being eminently collectable – there is after all a finite supply.

Vintage is an excellent way to enter the world of watch collecting on a budget. Vintage Omega or Zenith dress watches for example can be bought for hundreds rather than thousands. Even prestigious “Holy Trinity” brands such as Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet can offer bargains, with dress models available for under €10,000 and sometimes half that.

Buy the seller

The first rule of buying vintage is a bit of a cliché, but could not be more true: “Buy the seller, not the watch.”

Tibor and Christina Kiss, originally from Hungary, have been operating Kish Watches in the Powerscourt Townhouse Centre in Dublin for ten years now and their shop is a treasure trove for anyone interested in vintage. Tibor is a watchmaker and stands over any watch he sells.

“The vintage watch market is hot these days, we are busy,” he says. “The trends change constantly but Cartier is performing particularly well right now. Smaller watches have become more desirable and so have dress watches such as the Jaeger LeCoultre Reverso and the Cartier Santos and Cartier Panthère,” he continues. (side note: Shiv in Succession is rarely seen without her Cartier Panthère).

“Birth-year watches is another trend we have seen as well as watches to mark the date of an anniversary,” he says. The biggest demand I have is for modern Rolex, but vintage watch demand is popular, even among people aged 30 to 35 which is good to see.”

Among the watches I spot in Kish are a 1969 Omega Moonwatch (€8,500) and a beautiful Jaeger LeCoultre Reverso from the late 1930s (€7,500, the Reverso was first launched in 1931). These are iconic pieces of horological history and yet their designs have not dated. You will pay far more for a modern version.

Weir & Sons of Grafton Street stock a constantly changing range of pre-owned watches and service any vintage watches they sell. Giovanni Broccardo is the manager of the Vintage Department there and he says that the desirability of pre-owned and vintage watches has increased in recent years. “Some of the pre-owned and vintage pieces we sell are impossible to purchase new. Many also have an emotional appeal such as the date they were produced or they remind people of a piece a family member wore.

“Rolex and Omega watches can be dated very specifically through their serial numbers or movements,” he points out. “The beauty of pre-owned is they can remind you of a bygone age, much like a vintage car. Vintage watches will always have a value.”

Vintage Jaeger LeCoultre Reverso from the late 1930s: watches like this are iconic pieces of horological history and yet their designs have not dated
Omega Speedmaster 1969 Moonwatch: Omega watches can be dated very specifically through their serial numbers or movements

Buying online

Buying the seller is even more important if buying from an online platform such as, which acts as a conduit between watch dealers and watch purchasers. I speak to Balazs Ferenczi who is head of content strategy at Chrono24 and ask him if he agrees there is potential for investment in vintage watches.

“It’s a buyer’s market today, so if you want to buy vintage, now is the time,” he says. “Prestige brands like Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin and Audemars Piguet are always an excellent investment as they represent exceptional quality and craftsmanship, and overlooked models (‘sleepers’) like the Patek Philippe Ellipse can be picked up for an excellent price. We have seen the watch collecting community moving to lesser-loved models once the popular ones increase in price, so chances are an Ellipse could be an excellent investment.”

Balazs Ferenczi, head of content strategy at Chrono24: ‘If buying vintage, research is vital’

Vintage watches represent around 10 per cent of what is sold on Chrono24 and this percentage has not changed in recent years, Ferenczi says. Rolex is still number one followed by Omega, Cartier, Seiko, Breitling, Tudor, Patek Philippe and IWC. Cartier and Seiko have become significantly more important recently.

“If buying vintage, research is vital. What may seem authentic to the seller could hold red flags that experts recognise immediately. The key is researching the brand and model while paying keen attention to every little detail like hands, bezel, crown, papers and much more. Thank God there are so many valuable sources online to determine the authenticity of a vintage timepiece.”


All mechanical watches need servicing and if you are buying a 30-year-old watch you would expect that some delicate parts have been replaced over the years such as, say, the mainspring, the stem or the crown or winder. An issue arises however when major changes have been made, and this can significantly damage the value of a watch.

Mark Wilkes ( is an independent watchmaker based in Wicklow who services and repairs all brands of watches and clocks. “I’ve seen whole movements swapped out, lots of fake dials and lots of marriage watches where the movement is made up of three different watches (also known as Franken-watches). If you like the watch and don’t care about value this is not necessarily a problem and it is a cheap way to enter the vintage world,” he says.

Mark Wilkes, watchmaker: ‘The most common problem in vintage watches is wear and tear on the mechanism but most watches can be repaired’

“Assume that any watch bought on eBay, Catawiki or an Irish auction house will need servicing,” adds Wilkes. “The most common problem in vintage watches is wear and tear on the mechanism but most watches can be repaired. Pre-1955 watches do not have good shock-absorption so they can prove more difficult – also avoid any watch with noticeable rust.

“Assume that your vintage watch is not waterproof and always consider changing the crystal (glass) which can make a huge difference. My best vintage tip is Omega from the 1960s or 1970s, the movements are so well made and so easy to service as there are lots of parts available.”


The international watch auction world has taken a bit of a hit recently so now is probably a good time to look at vintage as a potential investment. Paul Newman’s Daytona’s and rare Patek Philippes are still fetching six-figure sums but prices for less sought-after models have seen a downturn. But just as you need to trust your vintage watch dealer, you also need to trust your auction house.

Claire-Laurence Mestrallet of Adam’s Jewellery and Watch Department: ‘Dig that watch out of the drawer and send it in to us’

Watch auction prices fell last year and there was reputational damage to the sector when Phillips in Geneva was revealed to have sold a ‘Frankenstein’ vintage Omega (made from several watches). The fraud was perpetrated by ex-Omega employees and the Swiss Police are now involved. Similarly, Christies Geneva is currently being sued by a vendor who wasn’t happy with the conduct of a $43 million sale which included a Rolex worn by Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now.

There is currently no dedicated watch auction in Ireland but watches turn up at almost all general auctions which include jewellery such as Matthews in Kells and Sheppard’s in Durrow. John Weldon ( holds a monthly auction that always includes watches as does O'Reilly’s on Francis Street ( Bargains can be had but due diligence is essential and you must view any watch before risking a bid.

Adam’s on Stephen’s Green auctions several watches each year – Claire-Laurence Mestrallet has been in charge of Adams Auctioneer’s Jewellery and Watch Department for eight years now and sees great potential in watches.

“We examine all watches that we sell in our main sale and provide a condition report: if we have any doubts it will not go up for sale,” she says. (It should be noted that this is far less common than it should be in Ireland.)

“Right now I am reliant on what watches are consigned to me but I am hoping to create a dedicated watch department for Adam’s in the future as there is demand. Our next sale is in mid-May so now is the time to dig that watch out of the drawer and send it in to us.

“The value of the watch market did drop in 2023, but it had reached a peak, so this is a welcome correction.”

Watches, says Mestrallet, now sell at realistic prices. “Ireland is a bit different to other European countries with Patek, Rolex and especially Cartier gaining the best prices. Omega is more popular here also. A watch such as Patek Philippe Calatrava will sell for between €7,000 and €9,000 (the higher price means it has a box and papers). We would love to sell more watches, so do get in touch with me before the end of April if you want to be included in our May sale.”


Finally a few words for bargain hunters. Besides the dealers, auctions and online sites mentioned above it is worth keeping your eyes peeled in all sorts of places. Carthy Pawnbrokers on Marlborough Street and Brereton Jewellers on Capel Street in Dublin always have a selection in store and Cash Connectors on MacCurtain Street in Cork is also worth a visit if passing.

Vintage reissues

If you like the look of vintage but don’t want to have to worry about servicing issues you might like to consider a vintage re-issue watch. By now I think every Swiss watch brand has revived their best-known models in some form or other. Breitling recently announced it is reviving Universal Genève which means we should see re-interpretations of classic watches such as the Gérald Genta-designed Polerouter and the Tri-Compax.

Oris Divers 65 Chronograph: a vintage look but with modern water resistance and accuracy
Oris Big Crown Calibre 473: the two companies that started the trend of reissuing classic watches are probably Longines and Oris
Longines’ Conquest Heritage Central Power Reserve: inspired by an iconic model from the 1950s

IWC released an updated version of the Gérald Genta designed Ingenieur from 1976 last year for example and Vacheron Constantin reissued an updated version of the 222. The two companies that started this trend are probably Longines and Oris.

Longines date from 1832 so have a long history from which to draw upon. The latest is the Longines Conquest Heritage Central Power Reserve, inspired by an iconic model from the 1950s. The power reserve is displayed on rotating discs in the centre of the dial and it manages to look both vintage and completely modern at the same time.

Oris meanwhile (available here through Fields and Weir & Son) has a new version of the Divers 65 which revives the spirit of Oris’s first diver’s watch from 1965. A vintage look but with modern water resistance and accuracy.